Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Israel Folau returns to rugby league with Clive Palmer’s support

A defiant Israel Folau says he has “no regrets” about any of his controversial social media posts, as he announced his return to rugby league with the backing of billionaire and former politician Clive Palmer.

Folau will play alongside his two brothers for Southport Tigers in the Gold Coast’s local A-grade competition, with his first appearance likely to be next weekend.

Palmer is the patron of the club and is bankrolling Folau’s return.

“I believe from my faith in God, that everything happens for a reason, it’s there for a purpose and I’m so thankful for what I’ve gone through, because it’s brought me a lot closer to God.

“I wouldn’t change anything.”

Folau’s Rugby Australia contract with the Wallabies and Waratahs was torn up in 2019 when a homophobic social media post triggered uproar, and his next venture saw him turn out with Catalans in the Super League last year.

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“I’ll tell you what I stand for,” Folau said.

“As a Christian, I stand by the Bible and what the Bible says.”

“Every written word in that book, I stand by that.

“I believe what the Bible says, and it’s clear. I didn’t write the Bible, that’s God’s written word, and I believe it wholeheartedly.

“You’ve got to read the Bible in context.”

The 32-year-old has signed for the rest of 2021 with the Tigers, but refused to rule out an NRL comeback if the opportunity arose.

“I’m just happy to get back on the field and play,” he said, when asked if he wanted to play in the NRL again.

“Whatever that journey looks like, I’ll look at that.

“But at the moment I’m just excited about playing alongside my brothers.”

Palmer earlier this week sent a letter to the Queensland Rugby League urging the governing body to support any application for the former Kangaroos, Maroons and Wallabies superstar to play for the Southport Tigers.

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“There is no legal basis at all that Israel Folau can’t play. I’m sure the rugby union paid a hefty settlement to Israel for what they did to him, and that’s a very regrettable thing,” Palmer said.

“Religious freedom in this country is a fundamental right. I’ve got some resources, and if it got down to a legal battle I’m sure that anyone opposing someone on the basis of religious persecution would go down very seriously and pay a lot of damages.

“He was the recipient of large damages – you normally pay large damages when you’ve done something wrong.

“It’s not a question of money, it’s a question of playing the game fairly and showing we have freedom of speech in Australia. People do have the right to have their views. We need to protect those values.”

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